Hot weather and dogs in parked cars don't mix

What's the best way to go shopping with your dog on a hot day?

Leave the dog at home, animal experts said.

"For the most part in summer there is no good reason to take a dog in a vehicle except to go to a vet," said Tracy Edgar at Carson City Animal Services, the city's animal control department.

Once the temperature hits the 80s, hardly a day goes by when Edgar doesn't field calls from businesses reporting dogs locked in parked cars. Animal Control Officer Dan Warne responds to those calls - five last week when temps broke 90.

Warne said even a cool 85-degree day can produced temperatures of 102 to 107 degrees inside a car - hot enough to be lethal for a dog.

What about open windows?

Dr. John Margolin at Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital said windows open or closed are little different for a dog seeking ventilation to cool off.

"A window open a crack essentially is like not having it open at all," Margolin said. "If the window is wide open, it can still get uncomfortably hot. I just think this is the wrong time of year to take a dog in a car, even for just 15 minutes."

Margolin and the staff at Animal Services acknowledge Carson City doesn't have a large problem with dogs in parked cars, but Warne did issue one citation last week. The endangering animals citation will cost the dog owner $160.

Dogs can quickly - in as few as 10 minutes - suffer heat stroke when enclosed in a car on a hot day. Dogs don't sweat and can only cool themselves by panting. Panting does not bring them adequate relief when there is not enough ventilation, Margolin said.

"I would say when it's 90 degrees, a car can become intolerable in 5 minutes and lethal in maybe 10 minutes," Margolins said. "It happens very quickly."

Warne said he does not get angry when he meets a dog owner in a parking lot after he gets called out because a dog is locked in a car.

"I just ask them, 'Why?'" Warne said. "They say, 'I've only been in the store for 5 minutes.' I say I've been here for 10 minutes and it took me some minutes in response time."

Last year, the Carson Nugget was the first parking lot to get an Animal Services warning sign that "Heat kills pets in cars." A second sign went up a week ago at Riverview Park.

The department has 26 more signs, with many set to go up in the Wal-Mart complex.

"We're on a mission now," said Ken Arnold, deputy director of the city's environmental health department, which absorbed Animal Services about two months ago.

Any business that wants a sign may contact Animal Services at 887-2171.

Animal Services has a second mission: getting more dogs licensed.

Carson City has only 2,800 licensed dogs, even though rough estimates put the dog count in the city at more than 30,000. Edgar hopes to double dog licenses this year. By law, every dog must be licensed.

"We are working on a licensing program now," she said. "We are attempting to notify animal owners about their responsibilities."

A license for a spayed or neutered dog is $3.50 per year, and $12 for an unfixed dog. The fine for an unlicensed dog is $20 plus $15 in court administrative fees.

Licensing serves two primary purposes:

- It helps Animal Services locate owners of stray or injured dogs.

- A license requires proof of rabies vaccination.

Warne said he has seen no rabies cases in his 12 years with Animal Services, but Edgar and Arnold said Carson City simply has been lucky.

"Being such a rural community," Edgar said, "the possibility of a dog coming in contact with a rabies carrier is high."

Arnold added: "We can get a plague and then it's out of control in a heartbeat."


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